Baseball in our area has always been about spring—long, sunny afternoons at McKechnie or Ed Smith that combine the thrill of big league names with the simplicity of the pre-season. I considered myself a veritable James Dean every time my grandma helped me ditch school to spoil me with peanuts, lemonade and hot dogs in her perennial seats right on McKechnie’s first base line. And all of Sarasota was buzzing with pride this year when the Orioles took the field at the beautifully restored Ed Smith Stadium.
Now, though, summer’s in on the fun. The Pittsburgh Pirates’ Single-A affiliate is wrapping up its second season as the Bradenton Marauders, meaning McKechnie finally has life beyond April. I still can’t help but smile every time I’m driving through Bradenton and see the lights glowing over 9th Street—there’s something terrifically nostalgic about a baseball stadium at night.
And it’s the perfect summer activity: cheap, outdoors and ridiculously relaxed. Minor league baseball means you’ve probably never heard of the players and you don’t have to fret about the game’s outcome. You don’t even have to like baseball—the crowd dynamics and dusk sky alone are worth the trip. I love the sport, but after a few innings I find myself spending equal time watching people and staring aimlessly at the outfield grass, thinking about absolutely nothing.
I was there Monday night to watch the Marauders take on the St. Lucie Mets (it’s okay, I had never heard of them either). A strong breeze toward center field animated the flags against a sky of evolving oranges, pinks and purples—something you’ll never find at that artificial capsule of a stadium in St. Pete. The Marauders won the night, 11-3, but that was really just an afterthought to good food and great company.
There’s still a little time if you haven’t made it to a game yet: They start their last regular season homestand Thursday (you can see a schedule here). And as of last night, they’ve scored another trip to the playoffs—two in as many years of existence isn’t bad—starting next Tuesday. As September ushers in the upcoming season, I can’t think of a better way to take a long, slow breath of summer.]]>
Whether you sincerely want your children to have a fun, social and educational summer experience…or you just want to get rid of them for a bit while school’s out, summer camp is all part of the season. So how do you make the quintessential Sarasota summer camp? Why, put the kiddos on the water, of course.
Morning at the Sarasota Sailing Squadron.
Despite growing up here, I never learned to sail, and it’s one of my big regrets—especially remembering as I do all the times I’ve been heading down the Ringling Causeway toward St. Armands and seen the armada of little sailboats making their way around City Island. That, it turns out, is Sarasota Youth Sailing’s summer camp.
Now based out of the Sarasota Sailing Squadron, Sarasota Youth Sailing has been around for decades, and their summer sailing camp, frankly, should be requisite for any Sarasota kids. The five-week sessions teach ages five to 18 the principles of sailing—a sport that’s both basic (boat + sail) and infinitely nuanced.
Sarasota Bay is, after all, an ideal sailing destination—calm waters and warm weather year-round mean the area should be as big for sailors as it’s recently become for rowers. And there’s something about sailing that seems so self-sufficient—a way of understanding and working with nature rather than just powering through it.
Although I’ve always feared the corollary to that, which is, if you don’t understand nature or can’t work with it, what’s to keep you from being carried out to…wherever?
But now that I’ve had a chance to ride along in a chase boat during one of the camp’s classes, I’m much more comfortable with the whole idea. “These [sailboats] really don’t go that fast,” says Ross, a camp instructor, from behind the wheel of one of the supervisory motorboats that help corral the campers (and tow them when they fall behind). Plus, when you see an eight-year-old manning his own sail and tiller, well, hopefully you gain some confidence in your own abilities.
Some lagging little sailors get towed to their destination.
The youngest campers go as a group on a single boat to observe the basics of sailing and being on the water. From around eight to 12, the kids go solo in a seven-foot “Opti,” with a single sail, a tiller and a daggerboard (a removable keel to keep the boat from sliding sideways). Older kids can eventually graduate to two-person crafts.
In addition to the basic techniques for sailing and navigating with, across and against the wind, the kids learn safety measures (“The first thing we show them is how to upright a capsized boat,” says Ross) as well as, of course, independence, responsibility and a healthy respect for nature. Sharks, crabs, osprey, manatees, dolphins and more are common sights during camp sessions. It’s peaceful and meditative out there—a state of mind that can’t but help in the development of pre-teens.
SYS has produced number of elite sailors over the years, including one of the top Opti racers currently in the country as well as kids who are sailing for schools like Stanford and UF.
The SYS camp actually draws a lot of kids into sailing who otherwise never would’ve had a chance to experience it. In fact, many families become involved after one child attends the camp and learns what sailing is all about.
Of course, as I’m sure we’ve all noticed, school’s just started, so the time for camp is over. No worries: there’s always next summer. And for kids who’ve already had basic sailing instruction, SYS has year-round programs for a variety of ages and levels. Check out sarasotaysp.com for sailing programs and upcoming regattas.
Man, the weather this past week has been exactly the kind of thing you need to survive in the Sarasota off-season. I, along with my Survival Guide compatriots, have been touting a lot of outdoor activities in the summer time, but sometimes the fun of summer is…getting away from it.
I admit it feels a little counterintuitive to tell people in Sarasota to spend time inside. But summer takes a different kind of mindset, a kind of heat hibernation to get away from, as I’m fond of calling it, the relentless, oppressive sunshine. This isn’t the energetic, event-filled hustle and bustle of the season, which gets kicked off with Thanksgiving and Christmas shopping and theater openings and galas and long busy nights of crowded restaurants and bars spilling out into the streets. There’s fewer people around in the off-season, everything moves a little slower, and so many days seem bleached and blinding with bright, white heat. Makes me long for a cool, dark cave.
The Hi-Way soothes me.
I’ve made no secret of my love for a good dive bar, college pizza joint or backdoor sandwich shop, and those are the best kinds of places to hide away from the summer—where it’s cool and dark and there are neighborhood-y people there, but not so many people that it feels like they’re stealing your air and upping your body temperature.
The Hi-Way in Bradenton is my ideal dive bar—scary enough that you’d drive by it a thousand times and never considering going in. And that adventurousness is part of the fun of a good local joint. (See also: The old Broadway, now long gone, facing 41 north of downtown with a tiny parking lot and bars on the windows.) I love the low ceiling, the minimal lighting and the low-key friendly crowd. Ask for Becky; tell her Hannah wants some chicken livers.
I lived two blocks away from Gillespie Park’s Maximillian’s Cafe for a year and a half and couldn’t summon the courage to give it a try. The building looks like a combination of a body shop and the frat houses at Stetson. Turns out, it’s a local go-to. Awesome sandwiches, equally popular with utility workers, Ringling College employees and downtown professionals. Another place where the close quarters make you feel safe and comfortable.
CCB surveys the menu at the Flying Dog.
The Flying Dog, in Mark Famiglio’s string of newish warehouse-type buildings abutting the airport on Tallevast Road, is too mod and too high-ceilinged to be a dive, but like Maximillian’s, it’s on the corner of an un-restaurant-y building, and it draws as many manufacturing employees and businesspeople as it does folks who live in the neighborhood across the street. Plus: no windows. And the vastness of the airport area makes for some pretty intense sunlight, so you can look out through the glass double doors, take a bite of turkey-on-rye and sip from your pint of Flying Dog (so good) and think, “I’m sure glad I’m not out there.”
CCB at Rico’s.
Rico’s on North Tamiami does killer delivery and take-out service to its neighborhood of college students, sitting as it does between New College, USF Sarasota-Manatee and Ringling College. But I like to eat in—it’s a big space with lots of…stuff. Pizza boxes and old arcade games and…whatever, just sitting around, like a restaurant-in-progress. You can watch the cars zooming by on 41, as though people are frantically looking for you, but you’re safely hidden here. Fantastic pizza, too—some of the best in town.
Of course, Sarasota’s quintessential slightly scary hideaway is just a bit south of Rico’s: The Bahi Hut. Everybody talks about it, which you’d think would steal away some of its neighborhood flavor, but it still feels absolutely local: The low lights and tiny space, half filled by a horseshoe bar; the kitschy décor and rock garden display through a sliding glass door. And the crowd, usually more boisterous than the other places I listed—blame the mai tais. I have to admit, I don’t feel right going to the Bahi when the sun’s still out. But even at night, it’s a cool little oasis that lets you feel safely tucked away from the hot summer air.
My weekday morning routine usually goes something like this:
Wake up. Hit snooze button on alarm clock. Stumble out of bed and over to the tea kettle. Heat water for tea while in the shower. Get out of shower, put on clothes. Make tea. Scarf down a bowl of cereal. Head to work in a state of autopilot and dive head-first into responding to emails, writing Facebook posts and working on web projects.
Of course, there’s variation from day to day. But that’s pretty much it. Not very glamorous, right?
And until last Tuesday, not once did my day ever begin with me putting on my bathing suit and flip flops and driving to Bird Key Park so I could meet up with Sarasota Paddleboard Company’s Bob McFarland for an early-morning stand-up paddleboarding lesson. Although now I think I want that to start happening more frequently.
By now, you’re probably familiar with stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP. Though the sport has been around for years, it’s becoming so popular that McFarland, who is also an experienced surfer, now hosts a yearly “SUP Fest” that draws hundreds of paddleboarders—young and old, experienced and amateur—and features races, a poker run, live music and an awards ceremony.
To paddleboard, you climb on to what is basically a long surfboard while gripping a high-tech, lightweight paddle. (“You want to invest in a good paddle,” McFarland advises. “It makes a huge difference.”) Then you paddle out into the water, and slowly and carefully stand up on your board. (McFarland notes that a wide, relaxed stance over the center of your board is best, and the most helpful in keeping you upright). From there, you use the paddle to help the board glide through the water. And it’s right at that point—right when you realize that you’ve got your balance and that all that’s surrounding you is sparkling blue water and gorgeous natural scenery—that you start to feel something close to invincible.
Initially, I thought the paddling part was going to be similar to kayaking, but it’s actually quite different. Because you’re standing rather than sitting, you’re using different muscles. Your core is completely engaged the whole time. Even leisurely paddleboarding is a workout—and a full-body workout, at that.
And you’re not limited to simply standing on your paddleboard. McFarland and yoga instructor Ami French also offer a weekly yogaboarding class. I haven’t tried doing sun salutations on the board yet, but the thought is inspiring.
I mentioned in my last blog post that living in Sarasota has turned me into someone who loves being on—or by, or in—the water. Paddleboarding, for me, was the ultimate expression of that. The morning we went, the bay was smooth as glass, and the sky was clear and blue. Every so often, a bird would flutter by or a fish would jump out of the water, but aside from that, everything was quiet. I managed to completely turn off the thoughts that are normally pulsing through my head at 8:30 on any given weekday morning and just let myself enjoy the experience. And that is why I wouldn’t mind beginning every morning on top of a paddleboard, with the width of the bay in front of me and below me and the city skyline behind me. It was perfect.
Do you paddleboard? Any tips for beginners (like me)? And do you feel that same sense of peace when you’re on a board, too?
This year’s SUP Fest will be held on October 1, 2011, beginning at 10 a.m. For more information, visit www.sarasotapaddleboardcompany.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.]]>
August sure came out of nowhere, didn’t it? It seems like just last week I was writing about settling down after all the travel, looking forward to lazy hours of reading, hammocks, kayaks and golf. Now August is here, hurricanes are announcing the beginning of summer’s end, we’re diving into preparations for our October issue, and I still feel like I’m catching my breath—those golf clubs remain hidden in the closet, building up an impressive display of dust.
That’s not to say the past few weeks haven’t had their moments. I finished a couple books, took a kayak under and around the Green Bridge in Bradenton and even finished the third season of Friday Night Lights. Perhaps most importantly, earlier this week I performed my duty as a foot soldier in the Great Anna Maria Island Burger War.
This is a very specific war, so let me explain. If you don’t know what you’re hungry for and want a menu that might include burgers, the island has plenty of options—Ed Chiles’s restaurants (the Beach House, Sandbar and Mar Vista) have decent offerings in perfect settings, and the convenient Café on the Beach is literally that—on the beach.
But if you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are craving a burger, we’ve entered an entirely different discussion. In that case there are only two names you need to know: Duffy’s and Skinny’s.
Really, in my opinion, there’s only one name you need to know: Duffy’s.
You can see I’m not exactly neutral here, and once you join the debate you might understand why. This is a line-in-the-sand kind of conflict—relatives stop speaking over lesser matters. Both restaurants have been around since the 50s, so it’s not unusual for a family to pick a preference and pass it down through generations. Every once in a while you might even hear a sneer like “Oh, they’re a Skinny’s family”—AMI’s version of class-based condescension. Think Hatfields-McCoys and you might get an idea of the scale.
Things got especially heated about nine years ago when Duffy’s lost its lease across from the Manatee Public Beach, and Skinny’s chose that spot for relocation. Now Duffy’s is farther north, across from the Holmes Beach City Hall, where the regulars tend to speak of the competitors to the south as meddlers and supplanters—when they speak of them at all.
I’ll put aside my bias, though, long enough to say that both are worth frequenting. Competition breeds quality and loyalty, meaning at either one you’re guaranteed hearty, greasy goodness surrounded by people who quickly feel like family. The atmosphere is relaxed, with a locals-only vibe you won’t find at the beachfront tourist havens.
They share certain strengths, like wide, juicy patties on toasted buns with plenty of optional toppings and an impressive variety of beer for accompaniment. Skinny’s stands out for its one-of-a-kind onion rings, while Duffy’s has received national attention for its seasoned grill and its role in the island’s history. (Long-time proprietress Pat Geyer, who died last year, was the mayor of Holmes Beach from 1990-1994. “Good burger, Ma” was a standard farewell under her watch, and her daughters, always ready to share stories with their visitors, are carrying on her legacy.) But remember: If you’re at Duffy’s, don’t even bother asking for fries—you’ll probably get silence in reply, or a few regulars might lean over and remind you that "The burger’s enough."
So next time you’re on the island and craving a burger—not to mention cold beer—you know where to go. And they’re both just a quick walk from the sand, which means you can catch the sunset over the Gulf and head back just in time for seconds.
5808 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, FL 34217
Cash only; closed Tuesdays.
3901 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, FL 34217
Cash only; closed Mondays.
Sometimes you just need to be alone.
A couple weeks ago, I had the occasion to venture out by myself to Bradenton Beach on a Wednesday morning, plop down my towel and dig into a pile of back issues of Time and ESPN the Magazine. In my reading, I came across this lovely little piece about the beauty of summer. The author writes, “I am more likely to read trashy books, eat sloppy food, go barefoot, listen to the Allman Brothers, nap and generally act like I’m 16 than I’d ever be in the dark days of February.”
Ignoring the fact that February in Florida is not so dark, I immediately wanted to treat summer with this sort of innocent, inactive reverence, to do things without explanation. I waded into the waves by myself, floated on my back with the water over my ears muffling the sounds, staring at the clear blue sky. I had nowhere to be and no one to engage; I tried to make myself think of nothing. I saw the swimming zone buoy and didn’t have to explain to anyone that as kids my sisters and I always talked about swimming out and touching it, but never made it. So I slowly made my way out, reached out and tapped the buoy. I floated back to shore as a thousand happy thoughts crossed my mind, none of which had to be vocalized.
This is the beauty of being by yourself: not having to explain.
Morning on Bradenton Beach—one of my favorite alone moments.
But not every place is great for being alone—especially not for neurotic, self-conscious me. So when I’m faced with lonely lunch hours (often) or evenings sans family, boyfriend and obligation (not often), these, in addition to Bradenton Beach, are some of my go-to locales for savoring the summer solo.
Laurel Park: On the north side of Laurel Street, between Orange and Osprey avenues, Laurel Park is so unobtrusive you’re likely to drive past without noticing it. But just blocks from our office, it’s a peaceful, shady, quiet place to sit and listen to the birds. Some days, I don’t see another soul.
GT Bray Park: Just north of Cortez Road in Bradenton, GT Bray, like the beach, is so expansive that I never feel like I’m intruding—or even noticeable. There’s a great walking trail and endless areas to explore, including expanses of soccer fields that beg to be sprinted across like you’re six again. I especially enjoy the chance to kick the snot out of a soccer ball without having to worry about breaking a window or retrieving it from someone else’s yard.
Southgate Mall: Yeah, inside can be important, especially at noon in August. But Southgate’s windowed ceilings let you savor the sunshine (or the storms), with AC and convenient coffee. Plus, strolling the length of the mall to me feels like being lost in a crowd—in a reassuring way—and for meditative moments I get the feeling I’ll never get to the end, and the shops and people and AC will go on forever.
O’Leary’s/Bayfront Park: Also just blocks from our office, Bayfront Park has the benches and breeze to accommodate me for a full, hour-long lunch break, the entirety of which I can spend trying to convince myself that, Yes, I really do live here. O’Leary’s is great, too, for an instant, after-hours escape—right after work, where I don’t have to meet up with anyone or go anywhere or do anything else. I think I covered the beauty of that locale—and the potential of time spent alone—in a blog I wrote more than four years ago.
The soothing view at O’Leary’s.
And there are loads of other establishments (WhiteBerry, Pho Cali and the Hi-Way, my favorite dive bar) that make me feel at home for reading a book or watching a game. Where do you feel most comfortable whiling away your time alone?
These are a few of my favorite things.
I’m just going to put it out there: I’ve never been much of an outdoor person. What can I say? I like my air conditioner. (Please tell me some of you can relate!)
But moving to Sarasota and living here for the past five years have changed that a little. Don’t get me wrong: I will never like camping, and—thanks to the fact that I’m the whitest person on the planet (…no, seriously)—I’ll probably never feel a strong urge to spend hour after hour outside in the sun. But there’s something about being so close to the water that’s really appealing even to me, and—especially in the summer—it’s fun to take advantage of that.
A few weeks ago, I went to Savannah with my mom on a mother-daughter road trip. We had a great time and I fell in love with the city and its Southern Gothic charm—with one caveat. There was no nearby ocean. Actually, technically, that’s not true: Tybee Island and the Atlantic are a short drive away, but still: I live in downtown Sarasota, where walking to the bay takes five minutes and getting to the Gulf means a quick jaunt over the Ringling bridge. I’m officially spoiled by Sarasota’s proximity to large bodies of water.
And you know what? This non-outdoorsy girl’s new favorite thing to do to beat the summer heat is kayak in that water. The first time I ever went, I paddled out into Sarasota Bay and squealed at the sight of a pod of dolphins frolicking past. It was amazing; one of those quintessential Sarasota experiences I don’t think I’ll ever forget. The second time, one of my closest friends, Tara, and I rented a pair of kayaks and spent a lazy day in the Intercoastal, stopping often to dip our feet into the warm water and admire the beautiful scenery.
Seeking shade mid-kayak excursion. Please note that this was before I went crashing into some of those mangroves. I never claimed to be good!
This past weekend, my best friend Kate and I took her family kayak and stand-up paddleboard out into the Intercoastal as well, and it was equally fun. Here’s a funny story, though: I’ve never paddleboarded. EVER. (I’m actually about to take lessons; stay tuned for that in my next post.) So I was very proud of myself when I actually managed to stand—and stay—up on the board. Unfortunately, that feeling lasted about two minutes, because I quickly lost my balance and plunged head-first into the Intercoastal, swallowing a large mouthful of salty water as I did. After that, Kate and I switched vessels, I got back in my trusty kayak, confidently paddled over to her family’s dock—and promptly fell in the water again while trying to get out. Pride apparently does come before a fall.
But you know what? Even the falling was fun.
All of this is to say that I think kayaking might be my favorite thing to do, ever. It’s also perhaps the best way to beat the Sarasota summer heat, too (aside from sipping cocktails at an air-conditioned restaurant). Since I don’t actually own a kayak, I usually have to remind myself to take advantage of the summer season and go do it, and because a lot of my friends are teachers, it’s a fun way to spend time with them during their time off.
Do you love kayaking? Do you do it often? Where’s your favorite spot to push off (and then paddle to)? Where do you rent your kayaks, if you do? And don’t forget—next up: Megan’s adventures in paddleboarding.]]>
So far, my Sarasota summer hasn’t had a whole lot of Sarasota. Last month revolved around a 10-day trip to Diriamba, Nicaragua, which included mountains, soccer, kids, cramped buses and a surprisingly active volcano. Nicaragua’s a beautiful country, with stunning natural landscapes populated by some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. Looking through pictures to share with you is making me want to go back, so if you hear one day that I have suddenly disappeared, you’ll know where I’ve gone.
Notice the gringo goalie trying not to act terrified? That’d be me.
A Nicaraguan school.
After two full weeks off for that trip, the highlight of my first week back was a heartwarming tour of the Loveland Center for our upcoming Charity Register. Then our office took another week off starting with the July 4 holiday, and I used that time for more travel—South Carolina, Georgia and Jacksonville.
So here I am, scrambling to catch up on tasks and reenter the rhythm of work life, settling into the fact that my remaining summer includes no more travel plans or time off. What’s next, then?
The little things. Reading good books (and re-reading great ones), kayaking, watching baseball and golf, and hopefully catching a few sunsets.
My favorite spot at the moment is the Burns Court Cinemas, where I recently watched Woody Allen’s charming Midnight in Paris and the refreshingly intelligent Beginners, which many of you might remember from this year’s Sarasota Film Festival. I love a good Hollywood 20 blockbuster as much as the next American male, but the stream of potential classics playing at Burns Court is one of the greatest reasons to boast about living in Sarasota. Coming up, watch for the riveting Page One (another SFF highlight) and the hilarious Brendan Gleeson in The Guard.
Speaking of Burns Court, there’s a new café bearing its name opening on Thursday, right across the street from our office. It might help alleviate the loss of Citrus Café, possibly my favorite within-walking-distance lunch spot (but don’t tell Nancy I said that). The owners say they still don’t know what’s next for them after they close their doors on Thursday, which made for a sad lunch earlier this week. To Michael, Susan, Rosemary and the rest of the Citrus staff, thank you for all the food, service and conversation. Whatever comes next, I hope it includes that California Club. With avocado.]]>
Last time, I recommended staying by the water to beat the summer heat. Since I live in Bradenton, I tend to gravitate toward Manatee County options, but those aren’t limited to a sandy Anna Maria stroll. Here are two ways to ride in style along our northern shorelines:
I could claim that this is timely journalism, but the truth is, I contacted Beach Horses after seeing their ad in the July SEE Sarasota visitor’s guide I just edited. Only then, not one day after reaching out to them, did I see the article in the Bradenton Herald about city commissioners voting to ban horses along the Palma Sola Causeway.
Walking down the beach, one of the guides takes a moment to collect a piece of trash half-buried in the sand.
Last Tuesday, I drove down Manatee Avenue to Palma Sola Causeway, the stretch of bayfront park on both sides of the road right before the bridge to Anna Maria. I hopped aboard a thoroughbred named Acky—bareback but for a saddle pad. All levels of riding experience are welcome: They offered a helmet and even a saddle if I preferred; the horses are well behaved and the guides can keep them on a lead if necessary. I’m a moderately experienced rider, so I got to try a quicker clip. Check “cantering bareback along the shoreline” off my bucket list. That was awesome.
The horses use halter bridles—no bits—and Acky, despite being obviously headstrong, still responded beautifully even to subtle directions. Still, the horses are kept on lead as the guides take you into the bay, which is arguably the biggest draw of the experience. We spent more than half an hour riding and interacting with the horses in chest-deep water. The most exhilarating point came at the end, when we rode the horses as they raced back toward the shore. It was like riding a half-submerged powerboat, and the whole experience left me grinning uncontrollably.
Out in the deep.
EMERSON POINT PRESERVE
To travel the shoreline under your own power, head across the Manatee River to Palmetto, turn left on 10th Street (which becomes 13th), right on Tarpon Road, left on 17th Street, which will lead you into Emerson Point Park—no charge. Park the car and unload your bikes.
There are several oak-shaded trails that wind around ponds and through great natural landscape. Though it’s technically off-road and great for mountain bikes, unless it’s particularly muddy, you can navigate most of the shell-paved trails on a beach cruiser. There are also foot-traffic only trails, including wooden bridges that carry you over the marshes and a historic path with pioneer artifacts like chimney remnants and a old, concrete cistern (that’ll send chills down your spine if you read Duma Key).
A self-portrat while riding the the road in Emerson Point Park.
Plus, you can ride a mile or so down the quiet, paved road—it’s got an ample, barricaded bike lane—to Emerson Point itself, a sandy beach where people gather to picnic, fish and walk the scenic mangrove trails. The view alone is worth it: On a clear day, you look out directly at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
My pals take a break at Emerson Point.
And that’s not even the best view in the park: When you find the trail with a turnoff that heads a bit vertically, hop off your bike (you can try riding up, but it’s a bit challenging) and walk it up the steps until you get to the observation tower. From the top, it’s a 360-degree view of treetops, water and the Skyway beyond, all backed by blue skies and dotted with birds. You won’t want to leave.
The view from the observation tower.
One way to beat the heat: An ice-cold cocktail from one of Sarasota’s many talented bartenders.
Perhaps this blog post should start with “It was a hot and steamy night…”
Because really, what’s new, right? It’s been so hot lately that we’re all practically suffocating. I’ve taken to proclaiming that it’s “too hot for pants”; I walked out of my spin class the other night expecting to feel some kind of breezy relief and realized that my body temperature was about equal to the evening heat.
It’s not like I’m not used to this; I’m a native Floridian. My birthday is in August. But still, sometimes this heat just feels mean.
So what is there to do, then, other than drink refreshing cocktails at cool (literally and figuratively) local bars?
I took it upon myself to do just that—and polled some coworkers about their favorite summer drinks and the best places to get them. Here’s what my detective work yielded.
Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse’s happy hour came highly recommended by many; its grapefruit martini (only $4 from 4:30-6:30 p.m.) was particularly popular. The bar is especially popular with the after-work crowd—take off your blazer, roll up your sleeves and settle in for some post-office decompressing. Plus, we find that having a snack with your martini is always a good idea—so order some crispy calamari or a margherita pizza ($5 each during happy hour) to accompany it.
There’s also perennial hotspot Selva Grill, where Steve the Bartender whips up a fresh gin, grapefruit and lemongrass cocktail that never fails to quench our thirst. Plus, you can’t beat Selva’s dark, moody ambience when you want a little break from summer’s abundant sunshine. Sit right at the bar or settle into one of the soft sofas in the back of the lounge area and just relax. Bonus: we find you almost always discover someone new and interesting to chat with.
At the Epicure bar, cute Italian bartenders Andre and Alessandro could also be called the Cocktail Whisperers—seems like everything they touch turns to gold. We hear that requests for Pimm’s Cups have increased exponentially this summer, and when we tried one, we saw (well, tasted) why. Sweet-but-not-too-sweet Pimm’s muddled with fresh mint leaves, cucumbers, and strawberries? Totally refreshing. (If Pimm’s isn’t your thing, try Bisongrass vodka with apple juice and mint, the pink grapefruit martini or the strawberry kamikaze shots.) And the great thing about Epicure is that, even on a Tuesday night in the middle of summer, the bar is always thrumming with activity and you’re bound to run into someone you know.
Pangea, right next door to trendy Lan, is the new kid on the block, and several Sarasota Magazine staffers have been singing its praises since the grand opening a few months ago. One sip from any of the drinks on the cocktail menu and you can see why—how about a rum martini made with Cristal, mixed berry puree and lemon and lime foam? Or, if rum’s not your thing, tequila over homemade peach-puree ice cubes?
My friends and I have also been known to slip on a pair of flip-flops and head to the Lido Beach Resort’s tiki bar at sunset—though it’s not particularly groundbreaking, there’s not much that beats having a pina colada or a mojito and watching the sun dip below the horizon. Afterward, head over to the public beach and walk along the water’s edge in the pink glow of the fading evening light. Totally worth it.
We know there are many other great drinks to be had in this town—mai tais at the Bahi Hut, daiquiris at Daiquiri Deck, craft beer (if cocktails aren’t your thing) at Mr. Beery’s, to name just a few—and that’s where you come in: Tell us your most freshing, must-have summer cocktail.]]>